The Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) Dr. Jody Hall served as the guest speaker during the November MAMA meeting to deliver a powerful message: steel is not the “dinosaur” that some perceive it to be. In fact, the Steel Market Development Group collaborates with car manufacturers to develop innovative material to enhance performance and produce better fuel economy.
Hall opened with a brief history lesson and referenced the late 70s/early 80s when manufacturers began to decrease the weight of their vehicle, due to the oil embargo and CAFE requirements, to improve fuel economy. The car companies and steel market have come a long way since then, always working alongside one another to provide consumers a safe vehicle while also complying with government regulations. Aluminum is another material that car companies use to reduce vehicle weight; however, Hall cautions that no matter the material used, it’s the combination of the material and design that optimizes performance and enhances safety. Material and design go hand-in-hand.
On the subject of safety, Hall provided an example of crash safety testing involving a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a newer Chevy Malibu – head-to-head. As the old saying goes, “They don’t make cars today like they used to,” this certainly did not apply in the Bel Air/Malibu crash test. The Bel Air’s entire front end through the driver’s and passenger’s seat was smashed in while the Malibu’s front was smashed yet it didn’t progress to the driver’s seat. This might surprise some, as the Bel Air was a heavy, full-size automobile compared to the compact, lighter-weight Malibu. Hall says that size does not always necessarily matter when it comes to safety – again, it’s a combination of the material used and design.
SMDI also collaborates with car manufacturers to develop repair technologies for new Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS). SMDI also works closely with first responders, who need to arrive on the scene of an accident and respond quickly and efficiently, to ensure they are aware how to properly use the “jaws of life” tool on that particular make and model to remove crash victims from a totaled vehicle. The first responders have their action plan prior to arriving onsite.
SMDI has a relationship with I-Car, offering a variety of educational and training recognition programs for the collision repair industry with more than 30,000 repair shops that have the experience and the infrastructure to repair steel.
So, where is steel going and is it here to stay? In short, AHSS is quickly replacing other materials and is the fastest-growing segment in the market – experiencing an extra 10 percent of growth over the past few years.
Lead designers and chief engineers from car manufacturers such as Kia, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Honda are backing steel’s claim to improve handling, provide an overall better ride, stiffer feel and overall enhanced performance.
Finally, Hall addressed the emissions concern: “Driving vehicle emissions down is only one piece of the puzzle.” For example, some automakers tout that they’re saving the environment by using lightweight materials, like all-aluminum, to help fuel economy thus saving on emissions. However, Hall cautions that in some cases extra greenhouse gas emissions are released to simply make the alternative material. She claims steel is the only automotive material that is continuously recyclable without loss of product strength and integrity.
To learn more about the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) visit www.SMDISteel.org or follow #SteelMatters on social media.